Collection of Cunning Curiosities – August 1, 2015

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A weekly compendium of things that delight my fancy.

Dear Internet, You can follow this collection on Pinterest. x0x0, lisa

Reading

Reading has remained pretty steady even though I’ve taken up a new hobby that perhaps I haven’t mentioned, coloring. Yes, I’m apparently 5 (again).
I finished Scarlett Thomas’ Dead Clever, which I really liked. The anti-mystery (if you’re a fan of Kate Atkinson, you’ll like this) was predictable in some ways but the writing was tight and not superfluous, which I adored. Rainbow Rowell’s Landline I also really liked, again, for the near sparse writing, atmosphere, and storyline. It also helped the main characters and I are in the same age group because it seems lately most of the characters in contemporary fiction are millennials or old fucks. Being stuck in the middle puts my nose out of joint.
I finished the series of Jane Austen, Vampire with Jane Goes Batty and Jane Vows Vengeance by Michael Thomas Ford, in which Jane is turned by Lord Byron and lives secret life in contemporary up state New York. The premise sounds ridiculous but it’s funny, fluffy, and a nice palette cleanser.
Right now I’m reading The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell and The Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett. I’m hoping to have these finished by Sunday, when I move, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible.

Fanciful Delights

I’m not going to lie: I’m totally a child of the ’80s. It’s not rare to find me blaring songs from my days in high school and early college days. When I heard there was a remix of Tainted Love called, appropriately naughts version, Tweeted Love, I thought it was amusing. Then I saw the video and thought it was fucking brilliant. The premise contains the song in forms of tweet names. Trust me, whomever came up with this is a genius.

Clarice Lispector's MONKEYS
Clarice Lispector’s MONKEYS

I have mentioned Clarice Lispector many times before and I will continue to mention her until everyone has read her work. This week, Pen America published Lispector’s Monkeys as part of their flash series and it’s hard to believe how contemporary Lispector’s work is despite the fact it was written over 70 years ago. Go. Read. Love her. You won’t regret it.
 
 

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2013, 2o13, 2o12, 2012, 20122011, 2003, 2003, 1999

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for January 17, 2015

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
 
Dear Internet,
You can follow me on Pinterest on what I’m readingwatching, and listening.

Reading

Finished
weddingnightWedding Night by  Sophie Kinsella
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
You read Kinsella when you want fluffy, not terrible hard thinking pieces. But the thing I’ve noticed about her work is that underneath the marshmallow, there tends to be some kind of point in play that resonates with the reader. Wedding Night is no different from Kinsella’s previous books, in that it involves a madcap character who always gets herself into scrapes and how she ends up getting out of them. For that I’m grateful that when I need something that doesn’t require much processing while I read, Kinsella delivers. It’s a fun romp that really is a meditation of what is love. Recommended when you need something to brighten your day or just want to have fun.

Currently Reading

chestnutstreet Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
After finishing Wedding Night, I wanted to continue on with the “doesn’t-require-a-lot-of-brain-power” books and of course I pick Binchy who is anything BUT fluff.
Chestnut Street is a series of vignettes that revolve around, well, Chestnut Street. I tend to love titles that use inanimate objects as a character, and this book is no exception to that love. Even within the humour of the book there are often dark undertones of the human condition we don’t want to think about or even acknowledge. The perfect family but the mother is sleeping with everyone. The grumpy old man whom isn’t really so grumpy as lonely. The girl who lies to her family about her living status so she won’t be shamed. I like that you can dip in and out of the book without having to read it straight through as the, thus far, only connection between all of these characters is the street they either live on or are associated with. Highly recommended.
lifeafterlifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
Status: In progress
Wow. I started this book nearly two years ago and I haven’t barely made a dent into it. Interestingly, I have been carting it around with me from place to place as the only physical book in my possession with the hopes that I would someday finish it. New goal for January: Finish this fucking book!
 
 
 

Bagged and Boarded

greenlanternET
Emerald Twilight
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
Why is Hal bat shit crazy? What’s going to happen to the Guardians? These questions must be answered!

Watching

Now that I’m settled into my own digs, all of my TV watching is going to be done via apps like HBO GO or Hulu+. I’m just going to touch briefly on the shows I’m on this week since there will be a lot!

  • Banshee My favorite Amish mafia, anonymous anti-hero, Slavic mob influenced TV show is BACK. I am SO. EXCITED. I don’t know anyone other than TSTBEH who watches this show, so please, if you need a show that has fantastic writing, brilliant character depictions, and great plot lines, this is the show for you.
  • House of Lies They’re backkkkk. Kaan and Associates are back and ready for action. TSTBEH wasn’t a huge fan of this show, but I love the gossipy, stabby in the back feel to the plot lines and I have a huge lady crush on Kristen Bell.
  • Episodes Matt LeBlanc parodying Matt LeBlanc. Tamsin Greig. A whole rich cast of supporting characters. Screwing with the establishment. Another great show from SHO and while we wait for Game of Thrones, makes Sundays seems a lot more bearable.
  • Constantine No one seems to know if this show is canceled or not, at least as of late November. I, however, like this show. I adore Matt Ryan in the titular role and I like the weekly artefact/mystery building. It reminds me a lot of the old Friday night show, Friday the 13th, which ran in the late ’80s. I really hope this show gets renewed for another season.
  • Marvel’s Agent Carter Strong female lead? Check. Great clothes? Check. Great lipstick? Check. Kicks major ass without the Cap’n? Check. Has a male sidekick? Check. This show is so much WHY we need more female superheros in leads and less about the mens. This is also one show I will totally sign anything to get renewed as a proper series AND will be buying the DVD.
  • Galavant I am, typically, not a fan of musicals but I do love fairy tales. With that in mind, I was a tad skeptical of this show but ooh boy, am I ever glad I’m wrong. Subtle pop culture references galore, catchy lyrics, absurd yet fun plot line. Timothy Omundson and his magnificent beard! I plowed through the first three episodes in one sitting and I’m hungry for more.
  • The Musketeers The boys are back! Slightly kitschy, a titch of ridiculousness, but 100% fun.
  • The Librarians And of COURSE I’m watching. Wouldn’t you?

Links

What have you read/watched/listened to this week?
x0x0,
lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 1999

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes: August 17, 2013

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
 
Dear Internet,
I’ve been sick with the plague half the week and traveling a lot the other half, so not a whole lot of what I wanted to do got done. There was also a lot of sleeping involved, and it’s hard to consume media when you’re dreaming of living in a villa in Italy.

Writing

The Lisa Chronicles

Listening

  • Cabin Pressure
    Still working my way through the series, but I’m now at the beginning of season 3, which means it’s only a few more short cabin commutes before I’m done again. Thankfully, I’ve got a few things lined up to take its place.
  • Night Vale
    I mentioned this last week and a few days prior to that and finally got a chance to listen to 5 or so episodes of the show. It is delightful and reminds me much of our little village in northern Michigan. It’s especially poignant when reading the police blotter of the weekly newspaper.

Reading

I cannot tell a lie Internet, reading has been poor but in so far as books have gone. I’ve been consuming more content via my RSS feeds — even bankrupted the count to 0, which was glorious, and have been keeping up with feeds instead of shunning them like the pox. I’ve also been keeping up with my magazine subscriptions (Vanity Fair, New Yorker, JASNA, American Libraries) and work routing magazines (BBC History, Computers in Libraries, Library Journal).
Books currently in rotation:

Watching

  • Miranda
    I binged watched this again while I was sick this week and I still love every moment of it. Rumours are that it will be back in 2015, which seems awfully far away but isn’t. My next goal is to pick up her book, Is it Just Me?. in audio format as that is apparently the only way to consume it as Hart herself narrates.
  • Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England
    Based on the book of the same time, Ian Mortimer takes you through a time period but as a travelling guide. Interesting concept, and in written form it works quite well. In visual form, some of the effects were off putting and I found myself mind wandering in some spots, but overall very interesting. The two biggst issues I had were of the constant shots of Mortimer walking through desolate fields and the CGI drawn in effects how things might have looked. It felt a little too flash bang.
  • The Bridge (US)
    Based off the Swedish/Danish series of the same name, the US version places a murder on the Bridge of the Americas, joining El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico. Crime solving with one main character from each state department entangles, hilarity ensues. Not really. While the show as a lot great moments, some of the characters seems a little wooden. We also found that while we have watched all the episodes, the catch up of the previous week’s episodes we never saw or remember. Despite its quirks and often sloppy dialog and plot lines, there is enough to keep us entranced each week.

Weekly watching: Project RunwayThe NewsroomTrue Blood, Sons of Anarchy, Burn Notice,  Da Vinci’s Demons,  The Vampire Diaries
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2011, 2010

 

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes: June 22, 2013

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
 
Dear Internet,

Writing

Cunning Tales from a Systems Librarian

Reading

life-after-life_original Life After Life ( Amazon | Local Library | Goodreads)
by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson, along with Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, and several other writers, are ones whom no matter what argument I make to save cash, I always pre-order their books when said boks are released.  For Atkinson this year, I found out a friend was going to give me an ARC she had received of Life After Life, so I dutifully canceled my pre-order. Except, I apparently didn’t. The pre-ordere arrived before my trip to see my friend, so I kept it in the hopes I could get it finished before heading to see her so we can talk about the book. It didn’t quite work out that way for it’s two months later and I’m just now getting started on the book.
While I would describe myself as an ardent Atkinson fangirl, I’m only 25 pages in to this title and have no opinion of this offering as of yet. But at least I’m reading, and that’s something.

Watching

  • Case Histories, Season 2
    I found out season 2 of Case Histories was being shown in the UK by accident, even though I had thought I had tapped myself into the places that would keep me abreast of such things. I greedily watched all three episodes in two sittings, and I can’t get enough of Jackson Brodie or who he is or what he does. Sure, sure, Jason Isaacs isn’t bad to look at, but the tortured soul of a man who walks (rather runs) to his own moral code is amazing to behold. I don’t know if there are plans to show it in the US on PBS this year or if there will be a third season or if Atkinson has plans for another Brodie book. I’m really hoping all of those things become true, the Brodie world of Edinburgh is one where I want to live.
  • True Blood
    Speaking of tortured men with complicated pasts, True Blood started its sixth season this past Sunday. To me, TB is always the start of the summer, the days feel better knowing I have TB to watch on Sundays. As for the plot, well, what’s being set up in the first episode of S6 is slow. TheHusband and I raised several eyebrows during the hour and we’re hoping TB picks up some speed (and interest!) during the forthcoming season. TheHusband put forth the show has finally jumped the shark, but I don’t think that’s happened. Yet. I DO wish they would clarify more on Pam’s dick whipped attitude towards Eric, since it’s been made pretty clear they were never really lovers in so much as BFFs during their 100 years together. Pam’s randomly shown weakness for Eric when certain conditions apply (but not all conditions that match, just some) is annoying.
  • Sons of Anarchy
    I had no interest in this show, really, until Beth forwarded me a video of Walton Goggins (Boyd Crowder on Justified) as Venus Van Dam, a transvestite prostitute on SOA. After getting over myself of extreme jealous of how beautiful Goggins makes as a woman, I decided to check the show out. I had been working on finding a nice long show I can get into while I do things around the house, knit/cross-stitch, or fall asleep to and SOA fits that bill. TheHusband, on the other hand, was razzing me that I seem to be haphazardly watching all the FX originals as I come across them (The Americans, Archer, Justified, Louie (TheHusband’s choice), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (TheHusband’s choice)), but hey! That’s ok. FX has created really great content in the last few years and they are pushing the boundaries of what network television should look like. Other networks better start taking notes.
  • Nurse Jackie
    Just when it looks like Jackie’s life is finally getting under control, a twist. There is always a twist. While I do like this show, this season was definitely not the best and it ranked pretty poorly. Dr. Roman? She just needs to go. Though I do love Zooey’s new love interest and that made me very happy how that panned out.

Weekly watching: Burn NoticeBorgiaDaVinci’s DemonsMad MenThe BorgiasVeep, The Vampire Diaries

Links

Reviews

Fitbit Flex
Lisa-mas was a few weeks ago and presents were still rolling in so I decided to divvy up the reviews over the next few weeks to not overload this post. This week, it’s the Fitbit Flex.
I know Fitbit has been popular around the social sphere for some time, but what got me interested was when Kate and I were discussing fitness regimes and she mentioned the Flex, a Fitbit product designed to be a bracelet with the Fitbit unit cleverly hidden and unobtrusive.  I’ve tried pedometers in the past and found most of them lacking. I know some friends have had good luck with phone apps for sleeping and pedometering, but I found this was not a particular good solution since many pairs of my bottoms don’t always have pockets to put the phone in and the way some pedometers are designed to be clipped, also doesn’t work with how my body is shaped.
The line of Fitbit products are designed to track, learn, and help you manage:

  • Fitness goals 
  • Food consumption
  • Water consumption
  • Sleeping
  • Much, much more

Much of this is done by your input on the website or app but the core information, steps walked/calories burned, is done by the device. You can manage, within the app and website, all of your health needs fairly simply and easily, which is of great interest to me.  It is also shower proof and mostly water proof (though, I’d probably take it off for swimming).
What I really loved is the Flex, because it was something I could wear, like jewelry, and only time I’d have to take it off is to recharge the Fitbit unit, which is about once a week. When I wore the Flex to work, one my student workers thought it was a post-modern bracelet, another person though it was a fancy watch. Inso far as design aesthetic goes, Fitbit gets top scores.
TheHusband ordered the Flex and the accessory bands from Amazon, and the items was on massive back order until mid-late July at Amazon and at Fitbit.com. So imagine my surprise when I received the Flex a few days after my birthday! But the accessory bands, which were scheduled to arrive first, still haven’t arrived and are still marked on backorder.
The package comes with the Fitbit unit, two bracelets sized small and large in a single color (you can choose between black or slate, TheHusband ordered slate), charging dongle, and wifi synch dongle. Setting up the Fitbit was fairly easy, as well as setting up an account. I choose to create an account rather then use Facebook or Google as the login. You can also find friends via Facebook/Google but Kate and I found this was kind of a pain in the arse (Kate had ordered another Fitbit product a few weeks prior). In addition to the website dashboard, there is also an app, available for iOS and Android. You can also sync with other products, like MyFitnessPal, which rocks if you’re already using MyFitnessPal to track your food.
Downsides:

  • You can sync your Fitbit to your phone using bluetooth when you have the app installed, and you can synch the Fitbit when the dongle is plugged into a computer, but you cannot synch it with any other mobile devices using bluetooth. This means if you want to synch it to your iPad or another device, you’re out of luck.
  • The iOS app is available on the iPhone only, and while you can install it on the iPad, it’s clunky. You also don’t have all of the options available you do when it’s in its native environment.
  • The Fitbit Flex system includes the bracelets, Fitbit unit, charging dongle, wifi synch dongle, and yet they did not include a pouch or any kind of carrying case for travel. I was able to find a small pouch to use to hold all the accouterments (and have space for the other bracelets), but it just seemed odd the pouch/carrying case was not included or even made available in the store as an accessory.
  • Going into sleep mode, to track my sleep habits, can be a bit wonky.
  • The dashboard via the web is different than the app version, which is okay, but some of the options available on the website are not available on the app, which is annoying. This always seems to be the biggest problem I run into with software developed for the web and the mobile apps come later: it’s assumed behaviors are not the same in both places, or expectations, when many of them are.

Overall, I really like the Flex. My goal is to figure out what I’m doing now and then improve on it to get more healthy. I also love that I can sync MyFitnessPal with Fitbit so that makes things easier for tracking food/exercise. Fitbit also uses gamification, which can be fun, but since I’m still pretty low on the totem pole on some things, it doesn’t seem to have the thrill yet. I do like how I want to walk everywhere to improve my  total steps per day, but step count on the app is slightly off I’m a spaz and move around a lot without necessarily walking, thus the Fitbit counts those as steps. But so far, out of the other things i’ve tried, this is a really good way to get started getting fit.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 011

reviews: books: When Will There Be Good News?

whenwilltherebegoodnews [Cross-posted to GoodReads and LibraryThing.]
One of the reasons I adore Kate Atkinson so much is that her books are mysteries that you didn’t know were mysteries until the very end. She has a writing style that I have found to be fairly unique. Her prose tends to border on stream of consciousness and twisted plot lines, but doesn’t come off as being too presumptuous or even at times, wordy. Her gift is for creating characters that are not always what they seem and at the same time, are fully formed and believable. Her latest book, When Will There Be Good News? imagines a world where Joanna Hunter (in the now) is re-visited by the horror of her past, her family (mother and siblings) brutally killed when she was six in front of her. Thirty years later, the killer is paroled and Joanna suddenly disappears. The question then becomes, is Joanna Hunter the innocent she has portrayed after all these years?
This is the third book by Atkinson that features Jackson Brodie, a character she created in Case Histories, who has re-appeared in her previous book, One Good Turn. Ex-solider, ex-policeman, Brodie is now a retired millionaire whose own faults seemingly are also his weaknesses. Brodie, who this time around plays a subtle minor character in the drama as it unfolds, seemingly is one step away from the realities that surround him. What he desires and wants, is what we all desire and want an yet for Brodie, everything is almost out of reach. As with her other books, Atkinson has a gift for sly observation and reporting on and grasping the intricies of the human condition that so many of us either can’t grasp or want to forget.
When Will There Be Good News? is a taut novel but this is the first of her books I have found to be a little bit more messy in the wrapping up of the plot. Things happen, and to Joanna Hunter, Reggie Chase and Jackson Brodie, they seemingly happen for a reason. We root for them in ways we cannot think we would, and we excuse them of their flaws but it is in their flaws (Brodie’s and Hunter’s) that seemingly were a little too gapping to make believable. But in Atkinson’s own problems with the writing, it is also her greatest strengths. Atkinson’s books are not “skimming” books, you really do have to pay attention as she will throw out a word or a line of dialog that suddenly makes some prior related instances, much more sense. Once she throws that word or line out, it will not be repeated or revisited. Miss that key, and the book will not be as good as you think it could be.
I adore her plot twists and devices as it makes her books wholly full filling. I love the fact that everytime I finish one of her books, I can revsit it at another date and find something new that I missed the first time. I adore the fact that she asks questions that may not always have the easiest answers and her answers (and questions) are not presumptious or overworked. Pick up any of Atkinson’s works and you will not be disappointed — she’s not as well known in the States as she is in the U.K., but while this is not her strongest book, this will hopefully push her over the edge.